If you drive around two hours south of Cape Town towards Cape Agulhas, you’ll end up in Gansbaai, a small fishing village known as the great white shark capital of the world. But don’t let this scare you off from the other offerings in the area, Gansbaai shouldn’t be just a one stop destination — it’s full of things to discover. For those who are there strictly for an ocean adventure, Marine Dynamics and Dyer Island Cruises offers a fantastic and educational experience, but it really is worth staying in the area for a little longer. Locals describe the vicinity as a “natural adventure destination,” and rightly so. A love and respect for the ocean, forests and fynbos is a defining characteristic of this community. That love is so strong that the motto “PROTECTING YOUR BLUE AND GREEN” underpins everything they do.
Gansbaai and the surrounding villages of Stanford, De Kelders, Franskraal, Pearly Beach, Wolwengat and Baardskeerdersbos have all the natural beauty that we expect in South Africa, but they have something else that I find very special. It is nothing tangible, but it is oh so appealing. You will find it in the quality of the light, you inhale it in the deep breaths of healthy air and you feel it in the ethos of the community. This area still practices and embraces the community spirit. Sure, there are dramas and squabbles that one will find in any small town, but for the most part, the sense of community and working for the greater good is well developed and expected as the norm. This is probably one of the reasons why Gansbaai was the overall winner at the WTM Africa Responsible Tourism Awards. Two Gansbaai establishments won Gold awards — the best destination for responsible tourism (Gansbaii Tourism) and best for poverty reduction (Grootboos Private Nature Reserve).
If you have some extended time in the area, here are some excellent ways you can enjoy it.
You can explore any of the many hiking trails on your own, or do it big and take on the Fynbos Trail. This 26km slack-packing guided route is done over three days and includes some interesting extras like planting a tree as part of a reforestation programme. While there, you’ll also be able to eat meals prepared from fresh local produce, stay in gracious guesthouses, sample locally produced wines, and take refreshing swims when the trail allows.
Cycle Down South MTB Trail takes you on a journey from up in the hills overlooking Walker Bay to the southernmost tip of Africa, Cape Agulhas. By day three you might be a little saddle sore, but you will be connected to this area for the rest of your life.
Canter along the endless beaches or climb through the fynbos up in the hills and get into nature on horseback. The African Horse Company offers all inclusive packages and I love their motto, “in company of horses – in balance with nature.”
Gansbaai golf course is the most southern course on the African continent. With 9 holes and 18 tees laid out amidst the fynbos overlooking the sea, this course is sure to challenge any golfer. It’s also rather windy — according to the locals, you can land a Boeing on the course, but not a golf ball. A round of golf is cheap by any standards, and you will always get a game and be made to feel welcome. And if you happen to stop by on a Sunday, you could be invited to stay for a social and a braai with the club members.
Tel +27 28 384 1441 / Johan Coetzee +27 82 878 0534 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Take a beach hike to another level with an interpretive guided adventure with Jason, a passionate marine nature guide. Walks from three hours to four days are available, and all promise exciting and educational facts and finds.
Jason Stonehewer Tel: +27(0) 72 890 4317 Email: email@example.com
Sometimes you have to lose yourself in order to find yourself, and you can do just that in an ancient forest called Platbos. Silent, mystical and healing, it’s a place to calm your soul and open your mind. Well marked trails and discreet information boards will intrigue and educate you as you wander through the tangles of vines and tune in to the sounds of the earth.
If big cats are your thing, take a scenic 20km drive to Stanford and Panthera Africa, where you’ll find lions, tigers, jaguars and leopards. You’ll also find two lovely ladies dedicated to caring for big cats that have been bred in captivity and are unable to survive in the wild.
Panthera Africa offers the public education and awareness into the plight of captive bred animals, and a visit here will convince you that we need to end the demand for interactive experiences with wild animals. No petting of cubs is permitted, and no breeding or trading takes place.
For lovers of penguins and sea birds a visit to APSS is a treat, and they will definitely welcome your support. The African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary is a new facility that treats and rehabilitates all penguins and seabirds. Their motto says it all — “every bird counts.”
Stop by for coffee and cake browse in the well-stocked curio shop, and if you’re lucky, Xolani the penguin whisperer might be available to have a chat and answer any questions you might have.
Fynbos attracts a wide variety of birds and is the distinctive vegetation found only on the southern tip of Africa. It includes a very wide range of rainbow-coloured plant species, particularly small heather-like trees and shrubs. The birdlife in the area is so prolific that there is a dedicated birding map available at the information office. From birds of prey, to dainty and colourful sunbirds, this area is a paradise for fans of our feathered friends. For more information visit www.westerncapebirding.co.za or www.birdlife.org.
Food and drink
Wine is produced in the Overberg and the area around Gansbaai boasts some excellent estates — Raka, Black Oystercatcher and Lomond to name just a few. If you want to explore all the wines, take a look at the Elim Wine Route for details on where to go. But to dive straight in, head to Stanford, where you’ll find the Birkenhead Brewery on the Walker Bay Estate. This spot is a must for a lunch and lazy afternoon, and they offer up beer, wine, cellar tours and delicious food. In Gansbaai, Stanford and De Kelders, there is simply no shortage of places to stuff your face. From pubs, grills, and pizza, to seafood and gourmet eateries, you’ll definitely find something that you’ll love. And if you’re feeling brave, pop down to Pearly Beach and try a Rooi Bier (Red Beer). Just make sure you’re not driving as this drink contains 2 shots of Red Heart Rum and has been known to make big men fall hard.
This region lends itself to photography in so many ways. Not only is the scenery diverse and gorgeous, the light is exceptional, and the sunrises and sunsets are spectacular. Whatever your field is, seascapes and skies, mountains, birds, boats or people, you’ll find the days flying by as you capture the essence of this lovely area. Getting right down into nature is so easy here as there are countless walks in the hills or on the beach, rock pools to explore, and places to paddle or swim in. Quiet roads lend themselves to riding a bike, taking a stroll and just breathing in the clean air. It’s like inhaling a smile. You’ll also meet real people who will talk to you and show you how to stop rushing and just enjoy your surroundings one moment at a time. Two annual festivals that are worth a visit are www.funkyfynbos.co.za and for art lovers, the www.baardskeerdersbosartroute.com
For self-catering in a peaceful flower filled valley and very child friendly go to Witkrans. If you want a warm and comfy B&B with everything you need in a centrally located in town overlooking the harbour, Saxon Lodge is it. And for the ultimate luxury in nature stay at Grootbos.